Protégé wins Pulitzer Prize


Tracy K. Smith
Protégée wins Pulitzer Prize
April 2012 – Tracy K. Smith, 2010-2011 Literature Protégée


Life on Mars, the new poetry collection by protégée Tracy K. Smith, has been selected as the winner of the 2012 Pulitzer Prize for Poetry, affirming Smith’s place among the most talented poets of her generation.
Smith was the 2010/2011 literature protégée of German poet Hans Magnus Enzensberger. Life on Mars was published during her mentorship, a time when the pair met in New York, London, Munich and Paris to share poetry readings and ideas.

“I am unwilling to put the Pulitzer Prize in Poetry down to sheer good luck,” said Enzensberger. “It is due to the quality and bravura of Tracy’s work. But it also says something about the Rolex Arts Initiative’s sophisticated process of selection for the Mentor and Protégé programme.”

Smith said of the award: “This news is particularly elating, because I think of the book as a tribute to my father, who passed away in 2008.”

Described by the prize’s board as “a collection of bold, skillful poems, taking readers into the universe and moving them to an authentic mix of joy and pain”, Life on Mars is in part an elegy to Smith’s father, one of the engineers who worked on the Hubble Space Telescope.

The book received extensive praise when it was published in 2011, including a review in The New York Times that called Smith “a poet of extraordinary range and ambition”, and said of the collection, “As all the best poetry does, Life on Mars first sends us out into the magnificent chill of the imagination and then returns us to ourselves, both changed and consoled.”

First awarded in 1917, the Pulitzer Prize is today among the most prestigious accolades in American journalism, letters and music. Administered by Columbia University in New York, it is the legacy of publisher Joseph Pulitzer, who established the annual award as an incentive to excellence.

Smith is an associate professor of creative writing at Princeton University. Through her teaching and workshops, she is already mentoring the next generation, in keeping with the spirit of the Arts Initiative. Acclaimed Irish poet Paul Muldoon, who is also at Princeton, has said of Smith: “As one of the most engaging, and engaged, of early-career American poets, she brings a very vital worldview to our students.”
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Rolex Mentor and Protégé Arts Initiative

The Rolex Mentor and Protégé Arts Initiative is a philanthropic programme that was set up in 2002 to make a contribution to global culture. The programme seeks out gifted young artists from all over the world and brings them together with artistic masters for a year of creative collaboration in a one-to-one mentoring relationship.

In keeping with its tradition of supporting individual excellence, Rolex gives emerging artists time to learn, create and grow.

Over the past decade, Rolex has paired mentors and protégés in dance, film, literature, music, theatre, visual arts and – as of 2012 – architecture. In the decade since it was launched, the mentoring programme has evolved into an enriching dialogue between artists of different generations, cultures and disciplines, helping ensure that the world’s artistic heritage is passed on to the next generation.
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